The Super Bowl Gets the Academic Treatment - Pacific Standard

The Super Bowl Gets the Academic Treatment

There will be a lot more than football going on this Sunday.
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots take on the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. (Photo: Keith Allison/Flickr)

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots take on the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. (Photo: Keith Allison/Flickr)

Super Bowl Sunday is an afternoon of cheap chicken wings, uncheap television ads, and, of course, football. It’s also, as it turns out, a time for sports studies and advertising studies—studies of all kinds really. As the annual top-watched television event, the Super Bowl merits just as much dissection from academics as it does sports pundits.

Now, I should probably say “the Super Bowl experience.” There’s not much actual football sandwiched between all the halftime shows and Pepsi commercials. In fact, if you add up all the minutes of in-game action, Sunday’s game between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks will probably last a grand total of 17 minutes and 30 seconds, according to a study by the Media Education Foundation. Replays, by comparison, registered at 23 minutes and 46 seconds of the Super Bowl broadcast, while commercials took up 48 minutes and 34 seconds—nearly three times as much time as the live gameplay.

Sunday’s game between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks will probably last a grand total of 17 minutes and 30 seconds, according to a study by the Media Education Foundation. Replays, by comparison, registered at 23 minutes and 46 seconds of the broadcast.

You’d think all that ad time and money—over $330 million was spent on Super Bowl ads in 2014—would lead to huge sales for the brands, but that’s actually not the case. A study released last year by research firm Communicus found that 60 percent of Super Bowl ads don’t lead to increased sales—at least, not enough to justify the tremendous price tags. (Four million dollars for all of 30 seconds!) Surveying 1,000 consumers before and after the 2012 and 2013 Super Bowls, researchers found little evidence to suggest that these costly ad slots are actually worth the investment. Although, as Forbes' Steve Olenski pointed out, determining the value of a Super Bowl ad depends on the size of the company.

Not all ads are created equal, of course. Budweiser, for example, was singled out for its successful 2013 “Brotherhood commercial. That should come with a caveat though: People just love beer. In fact, Americans bought 50 million cases of beer for the 2009 Super Bowl, and there’s no reason to think that number dropped much in the years since.

Naturally, with all that beer comes quite a bit of drunk driving. The International Business Times reported that California sees a 77 percent increase in alcohol-related car crashes on Super Bowl Sunday. In 2012, 43 percent of all traffic fatalities that day in the state were a result of drunk driving. But, depending on where you live, a bit of good news here: AAA gives out free rides in some states.

So there you have it: lots of advertising and beer. Of course, the football game itself will likely be worth analyzing too; watching Tom Brady pick apart a secondary—or a post-game Marshawn Lynch press conference—is too much fun to pass up.

Related